Nov 25 - Big business is breathing a sigh of relief in Switzerland after the country voted against capping executive pay in a referendum on Sunday. But as Ivor Bennett reports, the radical proposal in the normally pro-business nation may not be the last.
It was a radical moment for Switzerland - and a nervous one for big business. A referendum to cap executive pay. The 1:12 initiative would've limited salaries so that no one in a company earns more in a month than what the lowest earner gets in a year. But the proposal was rejected with 66 percent voting against it. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SWISS CITIZEN ALAIN SAYING: "In the frame of globalisation, the problem that could happen - if limiting the high salaries - is that the most important executives for a company will simply not come to work in Switzerland anymore, and will settle and work abroad, which is not good". Companies fiercely opposed the initiative, warning it could harm the country's economy. It also would've meant huge pay cuts - Switzerland's home to numerous multinationals and 7-figure salaries are not uncommon. For now, companies are off the hook. But the vote marks a shift in attitude in a country where big business normally thrives. Golden hellos and goodbyes were banned earlier this year as voters grow increasingly angry at rising wealth inequality. Further attempts to restrict it are expected, but analysts don't think they'll spread. Mike Ingram from BGC Partners SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, MARKET COMMENTATOR, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: "I've crunched some numbers out for the UK. and assuming that the lowest paid person in a company is on minimum wage. That might meant that some chief execs are on about 65,000 pounds a year. So I'd imagine that's not something which is likely to be passed by any company and it's very unlikely something, certainly a Conservative-led coalition, is ever going to legislate for." Anger at multi-million payouts isn't limited to Switzerland. But the country's system of direct democracy - with up to 4 referendums a year - means the outrage can more easily turn into action. The 1:12 initiative was proposed by the youth wing of the Social Democrats party. Although this attempt to narrow the wage gap was defeated, it won't be the last. A vote to introduce a basic living wage is expected later this year.